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Midnight Clear
the christmas invasion
by Raven

PG, gen. The Doctor is dead, long live the Doctor.

This is not how Rose imagined stripping the Doctor.

This is not what regeneration is supposed to be like. The Doctor dreams another time.

He was supposed to be awake, for one thing, and an almost-skinhead Northerner for another. If she’s imagined it, and she isn’t saying she has, it would have been her and the Doctor, her Doctor, beneath the lights beyond the sky with the universe in a whirl around them.

Not like this, in the grey winter on the estate, with her mum and Mickey helping her carry a Doctor she doesn’t even recognise in face or in frailty. In the flat, he doesn’t look like the Doctor she knew, even wearing his clothes, and he doesn’t look like an alien or a Time Lord, whatever Time Lords are supposed to look like; he sort of looks nothing so much as someone who needs an ambulance, and she’s never seen death without the Doctor and she doesn’t want to start now.

To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under the sun. The key falls through his skin, into his heart, shaken by the flow of the blood, lub-dub swirl and it hurts, but he’ll never lose himself again. The blood drips along the road. He follows that.

She starts with the leather jacket. Jackie looks on, thoughtfully, as Rose tugs at the sleeves, manages to get it off him bit by bit with his head lolling against her shoulder. “You’re taking his clothes off, then,” she says, still with that same thoughtfulness.

“Mum,” Rose gets out through gritted teeth, “We can’t put him to bed just like this. I’m going to need your help.”

“Haven’t you had the practice with this model?” Jackie asks brightly, and then relents at Rose’s look. “I’ve got some pyjamas somewhere. Be right back.”

A time to lose and a time to seek, and a world that was lost. He follows the breadcrumbs but the birds ate the trail, the vultures came for the carrion and ravens died over Gallifrey’s rocks and dust.

Strangely, she shuts the door behind her. Perhaps she’s learning sensitivity in her old age, Rose thinks, but whatever it is, she’s glad her mother has gone. She knows the Doctor, knew the Doctor, like an extension of herself, a flitting shadow through her consciousness every moment of the day, and if anyone’s earned this privilege, if privilege if may be called, it’s Rose. She thinks it, and looks at the leather jacket, a discarded black puddle on the floor, and then thinks: nothing’s ever that simple.

Because this is a stranger. And she’ll hasten the transformation with her own hands, remove the Doctor she doesn’t know from the protective shell that she does, because there’s no-one else. With him leant against her, she can get the t-shirt off his head, and she isn’t gentle about it; maybe he’ll wake up if she jolts him enough. But there’s no change, except now she can see the depth of the pallor in his skin, trace it with a finger along the lines of his face and down the nape of his neck.

A time to mourn and a time to dance (nothing’s left to end), and the universe awaits the Doctor. He can play the piper’s tune for the whole stinkin’ world; but it’s no fun now it’s allowed. He dances on time’s graves.

Beneath the t-shirt, pressed against his hearts, she finds dull metal chain and the TARDIS key, worn shiny by his skin and warmed by his body heat. She leaves it where it is.

Jackie comes in at just that moment, stopping by the door with the pyjamas slung over one arm, and Rose freezes, ready for the sharp comment about what happens when you co-habit in what is, from all outside perspectives, a very small box. But Jackie doesn’t say anything like that. Instead, she softens, and it’s harder to bear, everything all at once, that her mum actually thinks that she’s looking after the Doctor, with a certain tenderness, with love, even, but it’s still not about sex, and if her mum gets that, then everything really is as blackly awful as it seems.

A time to kill and a time to heal, and the wounds are beneath the cracked earth, before their time. If he’s stripped, he’ll bleed, but the stupid apes won’t leave him alone.

They won’t let him die. Things get better.

Silently, they get the Doctor into the pyjamas. “He’s a Time Lord,” she tells Jackie suddenly. “He’s supposed to be” – and a small laugh – “quite important.”

At this moment he’s naked and asleep in her arms. Jackie says nothing as the silence stretches out. And then the Doctor is safely wrapped up again, beneath the covers, and Rose doesn’t know if she’s sorry or glad to lose his skin against hers.

“He’ll be all right, love,” says Jackie, softly, and Rose wants to believe. Behind her head, the Doctor dreams, and the world doesn’t end. Not yet.

And a time to die and a time to be born; for everything there is a season, and roses bloom in June.

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